LIVE NOW: Trump and Biden face off at first debate

 

Hello! And welcome to our live coverage of the first US presidential debate.

President Donald Trump and Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden have been slagging each other off from a distance for months. Now, finally, they have to face each other in person.

We are just 34 days away from the election. Here in Australia, that's the length of a full election campaign. In the United States, where everyone starts running for president years ahead of time, it very much qualifies as the final stretch.

So, this debate and the two others that will follow represent the best, and perhaps the last real chance either candidate will have to win over voters.

This one is happening in Ohio, a crucial swing state which is certain to play a role in deciding the election. It's being moderated by Chris Wallace, a veteran political journalist from Fox News with a reputation for asking tough questions of both sides.

Mercifully, the format is pretty simple - ninety minutes, no ad breaks, and six broad topics of discussion, each of which was selected by Wallace ahead of time.

Those subjects are: the Trump and Biden records, the Supreme Court, the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, race and violence in America's cities, and the integrity of the election.

If the final hours of lead-up are any indication, we are in for a wild time.

A baseless conspiracy theory suggesting Mr Biden might wear an earpiece during the debate, allowing advisers to feed him answers, suddenly blew up on Facebook and YouTube this morning.

At 7:28am US time, a bunch of Facebook pages with names like "US Conservative", "Defiant America" and "The Unhinged Left" published the same meme, which said Mr Biden "should be inspected for a hidden earpiece" before the debate. It was shared thousands of times.

A few hours later, a New York Post reporter said the Biden campaign had "agreed to an inspection for electronic earpieces at tonight's debate several days ago but are now declining". She cited an anonymous source. 

That report then gained traction on conservative media sites, such as Breitbart, and among Mr Trump's supporters on social media.

"If Joe Biden isn't hiding anything, why won't he consent to a third party checking for an earpiece before tonight's debate?" said conservative activist Charlie Kirk, for instance.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany posted the report as fact on her own Facebook page. And the Trump campaign's communications director Tim Murtaugh issued an official statement.

"Joe Biden's handlers several days ago agreed to a pre-debate inspection for electronic earpieces but today abruptly reversed themselves and declined," Mr Murtaugh said.

"Biden's handlers have asked for multiple breaks during the debate, which President Trump doesn't need, so we have rejected that request.

"With his 47 years as a failed Washington politician, how much help does Biden want?"

The Biden campaign says these claims are flat out false.

"Of course he's not wearing an earpiece, and we never asked for breaks," spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield told reporters.

"It is pathetic, it's weak. Once again the Trump campaign is lying."

So that is where we're at as we count down to the debate. What, you thought these two would play nice?

Originally published as Biden 'earpiece' conspiracy theory explodes


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